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Final Score: Jazz Pound Crumbling Lakers, 117-110

The Lake Show sinks further in the standings with a humiliating home defeat.

Stephen Dunn

Let's just get it out there: the Lakers stink.

They have some valid excuses. (I won't list them here because you know what they are and you're already sick of hearing about them.) The team will undoubtedly improve when Pau Gasol returns, which could happen soon, and if Steve Nash returns, which will not happen soon. But the Lakers as they exist today are pretty disastrous, the latest evidence for this fact a laughable 117 to 110 home loss to the Utah Jazz. Coming into this game, the Jazz had lost 9 of 12 on the road.

From the final score you might infer that this was a classically fast-paced Mike D'Antoni contest. It was not. Over just 87 Utah possessions the Lakers managed to surrender points at the near-impossible rate of 1.34 per trip as the Jazz scored in transition, in the half court, at the free throw line and on the offensive glass. For most of the night, most of the Lakers "defended" like they'd rather be doing almost anything else. There's no real point in calling out individual mistakes. Everyone was bad, from the perimeter guys who couldn't stop Mo Williams (22 points on 8-for-11 shooting) to putative defensive cornerstone Dwight Howard, who got tooled on by Al Jefferson. The overall team "effort" was just embarrassing. Six Utah players scored in double figures. As a team they made 60 percent of their two-point shots and rebounded 42 percent of their own misses.

That the Lakers kept it reasonably close was thanks solely to their sizzling stroke from behind the arc. The starting backcourt of Chris Duhon and Kobe Bryant combined to drain 8 of 14 threes. Jodie Meeks, Metta World Peace, Antawn Jamison and Devin Ebanks chipped in seven more. Dwight, however, was utterly ineffectual in the post. He probably could've used a few more touches down there, but he's not doing a particularly good job of scoring down low these days (5 for 10 shooting tonight) and he's still turning the ball over too much. Pretty soon opponents will figure out he doesn't have to be double-teamed.

There are a lot of problems with this Lakers team right now, and the diagnosis isn't as simple as "offense good, defense bad." On the whole the defensive performance tonight was a mess, but the mess took shape in the second quarter when a slew of Laker turnovers and bad offensive sets let Utah get easy hoops on fast breaks. (In the second half the Lakers just played terrible D, conventionally understood.) The same happened in Oklahoma City, where Russell Westbrook first got into his scoring groove in transition. The Laker offense needs to find its rhythm earlier in games and maintain it for longer so opponents can't generate these big runs.

The absences of Pau Gasol and the Stevii are obviously putting a lot of strain on the Lakers' depth right now. Guys like Duhon and Meeks, as admirably as they've played, weren't acquired so they could go 30+ minutes a night. Bench players are being forced into higher-profile roles, and that needs to be taken into account when evaluating where this team stands. Nonetheless, I think we can agree that a roster featuring Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard should be much better than what we're seeing.

The issue that needs to be talked about is that Dwight is just not Classic Dwight at the moment. It might be that he's still not close to 100 percent physically or that he's still adjusting to his new teammates and his third coach since joining the Lakers. But despite putting up good numbers some nights he is not creating anything like the impact he had on games in Orlando. Both tonight and against OKC he took whole quarters off. Way too often he brings less to the table than Jordan Hill. It's now over two months since training camp opened so conditioning shouldn't be an issue for him. The Lakers aren't going anywhere unless he returns to dominant form, and there's no guarantee that'll happen soon or at all.

They now head back on the road for a four-game swing through Eastern Conference venues. If there were a discernable difference in how they play at Staples versus on the road, this would be concerning. Fortunately that's not the case. They're bad everywhere.










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Final - 12.9.2012 1 2 3 4 Total
Utah Jazz 25 35 28 29 117
Los Angeles Lakers 27 24 34 25 110

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